ALBUM REVIEW: Transition by Eddie Arjun

a2629633881_10.jpg

http://www.eddiearjun.com/

Eddie Arjun (formerly Arjun) is the collective name of New York-based instrumental trio, consisting of lead guitarist (and producer of this album) Eddie Arjun Peters, backed up by Andre Lyles on bass and Mike Vetter on drums.

Essentially they combine the raw expression and energy of rock and blues with the sophistication and intricacy of jazz and progressive rock, resulting in a musical fusion that is unique and original. All three members are musicians of the highest calibre and manage to balance free expression on their respective individual instruments whilst managing to interlock musically in an airtight, completely synergistic way.

Founded back in 2003, the band developed their craft over time and they eventually began releasing a trilogy of studio albums which started with Space (2013), followed by Core (2014, reviewed very favourably by yours truly) and culminating in 2016’s Gravity. These albums also featured contributions by highly regarded musicians such as E.J. Rodriguez (The Jazz Passengers, Sean Lennon), John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy) and Jeff Coffin (Dave Mathews Band, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones).

This album, Transition, consists of eight tracks and is due for release February 1st, 2019. Opening track There It Is gets the album off to a strong start. It begins with a Jimmy Page-style rock/blues riff which for many rock bands would become enough to base a whole track around, but it forms just one of a number of melodic themes and motifs which are deployed throughout the track. It leads straight into a high-end blues/funk riff, with the simple rhythm soon displaced with syncopations. This is alternated with the low-end riff, played in tandem on the bass with a short chromatic section adding further variety.

Drummer Mike Vetter and bassist Andre Lyles soon manifest as a formidable rhythm section, both rock solid and incredibly fluid. They lay the platform for Eddie Arjun Peters’ versatile, almost otherworldly guitar skills. Halfway through the track it breaks down to an extended section where Eddie gets to show the more psychedelic Hendrix/Gilmour side to his playing, with some incredibly mellifluous runs across the neck. This is underpinned by some stunning playing from Vetter and Lyles, culminating in a jaw dropping section of virtuosity before returning to the original groove.

Second track Core opens in a blaze of Keith Moon-esque drum fills and raw guitar chords before launching into a mellow blues in 6/8 time. From this simple template, the band progress through an intricate arrangement full of nuanced dynamics where almost every bar has some clever accent placement or rhythmic motif that adds musical interest.

It then builds up to a gorgeous ascending section that Hendrix would have been proud of, the music exuding sensuality. Eddie gets to break out his wah-wah which he uses tastefully and effectively, bringing to mind the Jimi of his latter day Voodoo Chile-period.

Next comes the title track and it’s a very different beast. Opening with a taut guitar riff that keeps you hanging in suspense it then locks into a pulsing, intense groove with a continually unpredictable rhythm that shifts under your feet. This is the track where the whole band really showcase their mastery of rhythmic dynamics and their remarkable unity that almost seems telepathic but is no doubt the result of tireless rehearsing.

Here the music is more modal than pentatonic giving it a more exotic feel, though still with a strong bluesy vibe. It feels like every single note has been worked out to precision, with some astonishing moments where all three players reach a frenzy yet remain in complete control, such as the superb solo section and the frenetic climax.

The following Longass has an irresistible groove and a real strut, with the guitar and bass once again playing a funky blues riff in tandem. And again, what starts out as a seemingly simple rock/blues jam becomes a cleverly arranged epic. After the initial sections have been repeated a further section midway through takes the music into the stratosphere, with Eddie Arjun Peters breaking out the delay pedal for another skyscraping solo. Another album highlight.

Iana is more like an interlude track consisting of just a moody solo bass, acting as a lull in the storm. The next two tracks both made me think of Hendrix, but in different parts of his short career. Sixth track Ascent is a mellow jazzy blues number that recalls the Axis: Bold as Love era, specifically songs like Little Wing and Castles Made of Sand. The arrangement is very clever in how it reflects the title perfectly, gradually building up to the thrilling development section where Andre Lyles shines with some remarkably fluid bass playing, locked in perfectly with Mike Vetter’s whirlwind fills around the kit.

The following, aptly-titled Lavalust is more akin to the wild epic psychedelic rock of Electric Ladyland and is my personal favourite on the album. Kicking off with a killer slap bassline put through a phaser, this is joined by a torrent of flamboyant fills reminiscent of Mitch Mitchell. It then launches into a rock/blues masterpiece that takes all their combined compositional and arrangement skills to another level.

The breakdown section in the middle is where this track really aims for the stars though; delay-drenched lead guitar playing some mind bending runs over gradually intensifying bass and drums, as trippy as something like 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) from Hendrix’s last magnum opus. It then returns back to Earth for another fantastic section where the guitar does indeed drip like liquid lava, and the whole band is captured at their euphoric, boundary-pushing best.

Closing track Gone is a real slow burner. It starts with a languid groove that really allows the music to breathe, Vetter and Lyles play with exquisite restraint while Eddie Arjun Peters slowly weaves a spell with some deliciously dreamy guitar work. The main theme is plaintive and haunting, the arrangement gradually growing in grandeur towards one final blaze of wah-soaked guitar pyrotechnics. It continues through several sections on this subtly complex seven-minute sonic odyssey. It’s a majestic way to end the journey overall, finishing on an unexpected major chord which gives an air of completion.

Overall, this is the best album so far from this terrifically talented trio. The three members of Eddie Arjun have honed their respective skills to a very fine pitch, have developed a musical unity and synergy that few musicians ever achieve and most importantly write and perform consistently stunning music. The nuanced details and craft in the arrangement of every track means it will richly reward repeated listening and should appeal to an enormous range of rock, blues and jazz aficionados.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

Advertisements

ALBUM REVIEW: Core by Arjun

CORE_front

 

Arjun are a New York based instrumental trio, consisting of lead guitarist (and producer of this album) Eddie Arjun Peters, backed up by Andre Lyles on bass and Lamar Myers on drums. Together they cook up a potent brew of hybrid genres that showcases their virtuosity and versatility but never makes a gratuitous display of it. They have built up a solid fanbase through gigging, though they deserve to be heard by a much wider audience.

This album, Core, follows on from is the second as part of a trilogy and their third overall. What makes Arjun unique is that, while they may seem at first glance to be a standard blues rock band, the kind that indulges in extended jams centred around improvised guitar solos, Arjun’s music is in fact highly structured and disciplined. The complexity and intricacy of the arrangements are something that is more commonly found in prog rock groups like Dream Theater and Tool.

However, Arjun never deploy the often soulless, banal melodies found in that genre, on the contrary the music is always soulful and passionate. Whilst Arjun are rhythmically highly versatile, they also avoid the often bewildering overly complicated time signatures found in prog rock. So, in fact, they are a distinctive hybrid; I would classify their music as progressive blues-jazz, with heavy doses of rock and funk thrown into the heady mix.

The album begins with Rocks, and features a surging rock intro that, if you weren’t familiar with the band, you’d expect to lead into a huge stadium beat and guitar riff. The unsuspecting listener is wrongfooted though, as it quickly moves to a jaunty jazzy melody on guitar with some fantastic stickwork from Myers. With his lighting fast snare fills, and mixture of rock and jazz drumming, he brings to mind Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, though Myers’ playing is not as loose.

The track goes through several sections juggling rock, jazz and funk with effortless ease, leading to a light and breezy solo from Eddie Arjun Peters. It is one of the more laid-back solos on the album in what sounds like the Dorian mode to my ear, which brought to mind Santana. The tightness and unity with which the three musicians play is what most impresses, with not a note or drum hit out of place in its five minute duration and this is a strong start to the album.

The second track Deep Impact starts with a brooding, insistent jazz rhythm and a haunting guitar figure that evokes a strong sense of mood. This is then countered by an intense building section of rapid hi hat work and Andre Lyles gets show his skills more as this piece develops, contributing a funky, memorable bassline. Eddie Arjun Peters’ guitar playing is more aggressive here and his solo is more in a blues-rock style, reminiscent of Joe Satriani with some searing, incredibly fluent runs across the neck.

Third up is the title track which features the highly regarded John Medeski (best known for Medeski Martin and Wood) on organ and which I have reviewed previously. It is six minutes of exquisitely crafted blues rock that channels the spirit of Electric Ladyland (more specifically the epic fifteen-minute version of Voodoo Chile) and features some superb playing from Medeski on a nicely overdriven Hammond. Eddie Arjun Peters’ playing is perfectly nuanced throughout on this one, more than ably supported by his rhythm section.

Crystalline is aptly titled, with an introductory section featuring a gorgeous shimmering guitar sound and a languorous feel that brought to mind Albatross by Fleetwood Mac. It then gets going with a more upbeat but still laid back section, building up to some wonderfully fluid wah-wah guitar playing, the tone reminiscent of the classic solo in All Along The Watchtower.

Sixth track Lavalust was my personal favourite on the album. Starting with some superb slap bass drenched in distortion, this is Arjun at their synergistic best with all three members contributing equally. Lyles, in particular, gets to shine more on this one, his bass playing excellent throughout, Myers’ drumming locks in to the music with metronomic precision and there’s not a dull moment in its five and a half minutes.

The next track Alchemy was not one of the album highlights for me, however. Though a perfectly accomplished piece of music, it felt a little uninspired and lacking in mood, with Myers sounding like he is straining at the leash a little, slightly overplaying in certain parts, as if attempting to inject some life into the track. It is the only part of the album where the musicians aren’t working in perfect harmony to my ear, but this is really just a minor criticism as it is still enjoyable listening. I did enjoy the chiming ascending guitar riff and simplicity of the string-bend based melody.

Within You is the closing track and a strong finish to the album, a mellow low-key number with the same late-night feel as the title track, though there was an elegiac, somewhat melancholy feel to the music which provided nice contrast to the more upbeat numbers. I loved how the guitar and bass play in harmony in certain sections and the musical tightness and unity displayed in the last seconds of the piece is quite remarkable. It could be argued that finishing the album with two mid-paced tracks leads to a slight loss of momentum after the high point of Lavalust, but perhaps they are saving the fireworks finale for the third album of the trilogy.

Overall, these minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent album, a consistently impressive and enjoyable body of work that has been recorded and produced to perfection (special credit should also go to Scotty Hard who mixed the album). Arjun are masters of their craft and their synergy is clearly the result of years of playing together, as with all the best bands. You can also sense this is a real labour of love for all involved, and repeated listenings are richly rewarding as the intricacies and nuances become more manifest. As the music is instrumental in nature it lends itself to be suitable for soundtracks, which I hope will lead to the widespread recognition this band deserves, though I think will be best appreciated by people who know true musical class when they hear it.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.6 out of 10

 

LINK: OFFICIAL WEBSITE

SINGLE REVIEW: Core by Arjun

ARJUN

Arjun are an instrumental three-piece hailing from New York. Their music is a hybrid of rock and improvisational jazz, the trio consisting of Eddie Arjun Peters on guitar (who also produced this single at Level 11 studios in NYC), Lamar Myers on drums and Andre Lyles on bass. It also features the renowned organist John Medeski (best known for Medeski Martin and Wood) and was mixed by the legendary Scotty Hard (Bjork, Crash Test Dummies).

This single, Core, is the title track from their third album and is six minutes of classily constructed and exquisitely performed blues. Eddie Arjun Peters has the lead melodic role as the guitarist and has a creamy, mellifluous tone to his playing that you associate with the greats. Every phrase is carefully nuanced so that the melodic arc ebbs and flows over the course of the track and every member is playing for the music rather indulging their proficiency or prowess.

The overall vibe has the smoky, late-night feel of the instrumental sections of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. After two minutes of slowly building guitar phrases, the guitar melody begins to soar upwards leading to a section where Medeski’s organ playing is given centre stage. The tone is warm and rich, to my ear sounding like a Hammond B3 going through a Leslie speaker, a classic organ sound perfectly captured here. Lamar Myers’ drumming and Andre Lyles’ bass playing both give restrained, considered performances and serve the music well, all combining symbiotically to produce a truly epic sound.

Overall, this is a very accomplished piece of modern blues rock, faultlessly played, recorded, mixed and produced. It is refreshing and edifying to hear that this kind of music is still being made in an era of dwindling sales and closing music studios, but there will always be a demand for quality among true music aficionados and I look forward to hearing the rest of the album.

 

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10

 

 

LINK: FACEBOOK